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REVIEW: Scotsman iPad App

I’ve moaned often enough that the Scottish press doesn’t seem to do enough to try and grasp digital opportunities so it would be churlish not to mention the new Scotsman iPad app that’s been released today. But does it beat buying the paper or getting it via the likes of PressReader (where you can get all the papers you want – from across the globe for £19 a month)? Let’s have a look…

Scotsman iPad App review

What is it?

It’s The Scotsman newspaper in an iPad friendly format (the old iPhone app wasn’t that great as I said in this Scotsman iPhone app review). You get a bunch of stories from the paper/website and the digital edition claims it will update during the day. You also get the option to view the traditional paper format. It’s £7.99 a month – which is a good deal – and the first month is free. You may even get the Evening News for free (more of that in a minute).

Is this a good thing?

Hell yes. More and more news is being consumed this way – on tablets and phones, so it most certainly is. This is the future. And even though The Scotsman isn’t what it was – it went through a period of being hellbent on losing the traditional audience – and the website it (slowly) rebuilding its way to former glories that Stewart Kirkpatrick made of it – this is a good thing. It’s still an influential paper, especially on the East Coast.

Is it a good app? A good read?

Umm… let’s split this up…

The Good

The fact The Scotsman has done this is good. We need more Scottish press embracing possibilities.

What’s utterly brilliant is the setting for ‘Read the paper from the back’ (it’s buried in the settings options) – that’s great for those who start with the sports section and whoever came up with it should get a gold star. Great consideration of audience.

It’s very stable and quite quick. There’s some nice options with each story to share via email, Facebook or Twitter and it takes your settings from what is already on your machine – no need to input your details again. There’s also a nice ‘related stories’ link at the end of each.

It’s genuinely free for a month. It doesn’t ask for your card or PayPal details up front, hoping you’ll forget to cancel (like so many sites do)

You can get Jobs, Announcements and so on – it takes you to The Scotsman site so this is always the fresh material that it should be.

You can archive stories and editions.

The Not-so-good

(in no particular order)

The video could do with better mics. Quite a bit of background hiss.

There’s no back button on any of the pages so you always have to click the Home button to leave a section.

The first few attempts at downloading the edition of the day are horrifically slow – three minutes on a 50MB wifi connection (for comparison, PressReader pulled today’s edition down in 26 seconds – the whole thing) – and I can’t tell if the Scotsman pulls down the whole edition or streams pages at a time as there’s a 2-3 second lag when you flick through pages.

The stories at the top – seven stories in the ‘cycle’ but only two are from today. Five are from yesterday.

While there’s options to share, it doesn’t tell me if any my friends have read/liked/tweeted the stories. Similarly, there’s no ‘what are my friends reading’ option which could have boosted engagement.

When you go to Jobs, Announcements and so on, the UI changes and you are suddenly in the territory of The Scotsman website. This is bad. The UI experience should be consistent so that if someone is accessing these pages from the app that they still have all the options at the bottom (in fairness, they do have it at the top but it’s just a button saying ‘done’ which takes you back to the app.)

WTF is the ‘Remember the Children’ thing all about? Make a virtual star in the night sky to remember a baby or child no longer with us? I mean really, what the fuck? Crass, insensitive. Just what was the thinking behind this one? Cheap and manipulative in my opinion – and seems to be something a bunch of papers are doing. Nice idea but to me, just… no. And yes, I think the same about the poppy field for soldiers and the daffodils for cancer victims. At least those are a bit more relevant than stars in the night sky.

The Questions

What times of the day does this update? Will it inform me by email? How will I know? Do I need to just click and hope?

What about the Evening News stream at the bottom – is that the full paper? Just the highlights? Will the Evening News be getting an app? What about the Scotland on Sunday? A standalone app or will it appear on Sunday in this one?

Why isn’t there a one-touch button for sending comments (to appear on the website) or Letters to the Editor? Is there an option to read web comments?

What time does it update in the morning? Does it come out the same time as the streets edition or is it 9am?

Over time, will it remember what I have read or shared and put those sort of stories first?

Conclusions – is it worth buying?

This is a very decent app and deserves to make The Scotsman money. It’s probably the best Scottish newspaper app out there at the moment and hopefully sparks others into getting out there. £7.99 for a monthly subscription isn’t bad – if it includes the Evening News and S0S then it’s even better.

Will I be buying it? Probably not. I may subscribe for a month just to give it some cash, but that’s it (unless you get the full Evening News/SoS). Why? I use PressReader on my iPad and here’s why I’ll be sticking with that…

What’s so good about PressReader

£19 a month gets me all-I-can-eat press from more than 2000 newspapers from more than 100 countries. Every day I turn on the app and I get downloaded at 7am the print editions of The Scotsman, The Courier, The Press & Journal, The Herald, The Guardian, and The Indepdendent. Every evening I get The Evening Times, Evening Telegraph and the Evening Express. Now on top of that, for no extra cost I can get the Daily Mail, Daily Express (English editions), access to the likes of The Engineer, Marketing Week, Sunday Herald and many other weekly publications. I can also get plenty of other regional UK titles if I’m doing a PR search for local press – or foreign press.

Basically, it’s a steal and even at £7.99 The Scotsman app can’t compete with it. I can forego the likes of the odd video interview and save my £7.99 – but in fairness that may change. If there’s enough new fresh content that is non-paper and appeals to me, I’ll be there, waving my credit card.

And what they put up today is an optimistic start.

  1. It still boggles me how long its taken news sites and magazines to deliver their product for tablets and smartphones. (OK Apple was a only few days faster releasing their iBooks authoring package), but hey wake-up publishers – tick-tock!

    Good to see Scottish press going digital as its coverage is patchy elsewhere, even from the National titles. But why limit this to Tablets (or iPad)? There must be x1000+ multiples of iPhones in use than iPads so i’d hope to see this iPad version replace the old iPhone app. Many iPad’ers are iPhoners too…

    As for content, this is where the digital dividend can work wonders. Please please please Publishers STOP trying to transfer the hardcopy atom for electron in digital form. Be creative, Pixels are spandex and will bend to your infinite will. This and future generations expect it. Back to front reading sounds like the sort of thinking thats necessary, but only a start. Which I agree is what this is – an optimistic start.

    (PressReader sounds like a Costco 3,000 condom Family Pack for news hounds)

  2. Thanks for the comment John. I must admit, I still like the traditional newspaper format – I think it packs a lot of info into a small space – but I appear to be an old fuddy duddy on that issue.

  3. Hi Craig and thanks for the detailed review.
    Great to see you get to grips with it on the first morning :-)

    First off, I really appreciate the balanced nature of your comments, and the positive aspects that you highlight.It’s great to hear you endorsing our increasingly proactive digital approach.And also that you say the app is very stable and quite quick – that’s really important for us in terms of core usability.

    We’re also pleased with the sharing options. It’s important for us to integrate effectively with Facebook, Twitter, e-mail – and possibly others in due course. That said, I agree that we could seek to reflect peer and community activity around the content to boost engagement.

    We will also absolutely continue to assess the speed of ‘Paper’ downloads. And more generally, we will look to respond to any other urgent feedback with an early update if anything comes back loud and clear. The point about notifications and time of updates is also a fair one, as is consistent UI when visiting other related areas. In this first release, we’ve tried to do what we can on that one.

    Other hopefully helpful answers:
    – The Edinburgh Evening News stream contains the key digital content from that title, updated during the day
    – We’ll assess how best we can cater for it more broadly, along with the Scotland on Sunday, based on how this app performs initially and audience feedback/demand
    – Comments are definitely in our plan to integrate as and when we can, in a hopefully seamless way across all the Scotsman platforms – so website and mobile site as well.
    – The ‘Paper’ should be available to download by 0700 at the morning, with ‘Digital’ content updated dynamically at various points in the day and overnight.

    We definitely see this launch as just the start of how this app can develop, and that should of course be shaped by our audience just as much as us.

    So blogs, reviews and comments like this are really helpful, as we look to shape this product, and indeed wider digital strategy, to serve our readers and users as effectively as we can, on whatever platform they use.

    Thanks again for the eloquent and fair assessment.

    Alex Gubbay (Head of Digital Content, Johnston Press)

  4. nice review/advert for something else. does this app come with a racist political party, a heap of health warnings and an introverted mindset?

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